Judge to hear arguments in Menendez corruption case
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Attorneys in New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez's corruption case are scheduled to go in front of a judge Thursday as Menendez seeks the dismissal of the 22-count indictment against him and a Florida eye doctor charged with buying his political influence.
The government contended in a 22-count indictment unsealed in April that Menendez accepted cash and gifts from ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen in exchange for lobbying on behalf of Melgen's business interests. Menendez and Melgen filed more than a dozen motions last month to dismiss the indictment.
Among their claims are that Menendez wasn't advocating on behalf of Melgen when he met with various government officials, but instead was pursuing legitimate policy objectives. They went further, alleging that an FBI agent offered false testimony to a grand jury about a meeting between Menendez and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Prosecutors have countered that defense lawyers cherry-picked quotes from grand jury testimony to support their allegations, and ignored incriminating statements from other participants in the meeting.
Melgen and Menendez also alleged the government illegally searched Melgen's office and initiated the investigation based on an anonymous tipster's account, never proved, that both men were consorting with underage prostitutes, and repeatedly focused on those allegations during the grand jury process. Neither man is charged with a sex-related crime.
U.S. District Judge William Walls could rule on some or all of the motions Thursday or reserve his decisions for a later date. A trial is scheduled for mid-October, but defense attorneys filed a motion this week, unopposed by the prosecution, to have the date pushed back to give time for expected appeals of Walls' rulings.